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Our lives are an unending series of events. Nurture vs. nature? 

Do we have the power to alter their outcome?

Because by Travis Richardson

He stopped reading when he was ten because: his pa said it was a waste of time; he was spanked until welts appeared on his rear after his pa found a copy of Charlotte’s Web hidden under his bed and his ma was beaten for secretly buying it for him; real men didn't read.  

In middle school he beat up a kid with glasses because: the nerd made the rest of the class look like dummies by answering all the questions; the nerd acted all superior; the nerd read books.  

He dropped out of school at fourteen because: it was a waste of time; his pa needed help in the shop; school was for pussies anyway.

He stole a car because: he was bored; a fire raged inside and if he didn’t do something crazy, he might hurt somebody; he wanted to shock his tight-assed friends who were always in school.

He rammed the stolen car into a police cruiser roadblock because: he wasn’t pulling over with his buddies in the car regardless of how many times they pleaded for him to stop; there was a chance he might break through; why not? The car wasn't his anyway. 

He was tried as an adult for manslaughter because: his friend Eric flew through the windshield; destroying police property was not appreciated by prosecutors or tax paying jurors; unlike other juvenile delinquents, he couldn’t prove he had a future. 

In jail he learned that his pa lost the auto shop because: fewer people were driving older cars that didn't require computers to fix up; his pa kept ignoring audit letters from the IRS; hiring his defense lawyer had drained what was left of the family savings.

Later his pa shot himself and his ma because: he blamed her for their wayward son; he couldn't stand living every day as a failure; he was a selfish asshole.   

When was he released from prison at twenty-six, he went back to his old house that his aunt had kept for him, but could not sleep the first two nights in his old bed because: the silence was too much without the noises of his cellmate and other prisoners; the silence was too much without the presence of his mother in her house; the silence was too much.

He knew Sadie would be his when he saw her at the bar because: she smoked like a chimney and he took that mean she was easy; she had trouble, literally, written across her breasts on a tight tank-top; she kept gazing at his oversized biceps and prison ink.   

He robbed a convenience store because: he needed money; nobody was hiring ex-cons; Sadie got pregnant.

He shot the clerk because: he didn't want a witness; the kid had an attitude; the kid was reading a book.

Cornered in a church parking lot, he shot at the cops because: he didn’t want go back to prison; he didn't want to live; he didn't want to be a loser “my-dad’s-in-jail” father.

He punched out his attorney because: his public defender negotiated a life sentence; his public defender was probably a rich do-gooder who didn't know what real life was like; he had no other outlet to release his frustration.

In prison, he joined the Aryan Brotherhood because; they offered protection; he understood the group; he got to beat on others with immunity.

Five years later, he started shit out on the basketball court because: he wanted to make a reputation; he was frustrated by the Brotherhood’s rigid structure; seeing his daughter Eva earlier that day for only thirty minutes shredded his heart.

He read in isolation because: he was bored out of his skull when he reluctantly opened a mangled copy of Of Mice And Men; books offered a whole helluva lot more than any movie he had ever seen; he enjoyed it.

He took a swing at a guard moments after he was released from isolation because: he didn't want to be around ignoramus racists anymore; he wanted to continue reading without being harassed by illiterate idiots; he wanted to write a story for Eva and needed the privacy.

He read fiction over biography and history because: fiction offered limitless opportunities rather than non-fiction’s concrete reality; fiction was never finished until the words “the end”; fiction made the world much bigger than the one he was living in.

He took a job at the prison library because: he got access to books when they first came in; he met other like-minded inmates and limited his time with the Brotherhood; he could continue to write stories for his daughter.

He was upset when Sadie published the fairy-tale stories he’d written for Eva because: the stories were meant for his daughter’s eyes only; a national controversy exploded around him, debating whether a prisoner should be able to sell a book from jail; the Brotherhood ordered him to stop writing immediately, because it made them look soft.

He taught literacy classes to other inmates because: he was tired of being a racist thug; he needed to spread good will after all the bad he had created; he felt compelled do it regardless of the consequences. 

When he was betrayed, stabbed 15 times by a young protégé, he forgave the kid in his dying breaths because: he knew he would have done the same thing as a young man wanting to win favor with the Brotherhood; he had sold enough books to put Eva through college; he knew his legend would grow stronger in death and there was nothing anybody could do about it.

Travis Richardson’s novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He’s been published in All Due Respect, Shotgun Honey, and Powder Flash Burns as well as the anthologies SCOUNDRELS, GIRL TROUBLE and ALL DUE RESPECT ISSUE #1. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter, reviews Chekhov short stories daily at and sometimes shoots a short movie. His crime comedy, KEEPING THE RECORD, is out now.